TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Domestic violence cases in Leon County are up, it's something we've talked about since the start of the pandemic. It's an issue that's not going to go away until more is done to bring relief to those suffering at the hands of someone else. On Wednesday, community organizations came together to show victims that they are not alone.
"The acts of violence were much more brutal and the injuries were much more severe."
Refuge House provides domestic abuse support with an emergency shelter, counseling, and more. The organization typically sees up to 6,500 people a year, however that number dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic; with fewer people able to get away to make a call for help.
Emily Mitchem is the Executive Director and said people coming in need more medical attention than ever before. "The pressures and not being able to get away from the batterer, the victims were just really, really harmed."
According to the Leon County Sheriff's Office, every nine out of 10 victims of sexual assault know the person assaulting them. Sheriff Walter McNeil said that's why it's important to get ahead of the problem before a history of domestic violence repeats itself. Sheriff McNeil said, "the idea is to find ways to identify the problems and deal with it on the front end."
On Wednesday, the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council brought the community together, all five police and sheriff's departments in Leon County covered their patrol cars with a message "end the silence on domestic violence".
DVCC Director, Kelly O'Rourke, said it's important to pay attention to the warning signs like arguing, intimidation, threats of violence, and public shaming. O'Rourke said, "just because somebody is smiling, or you don't see bruises, doesn't mean there's not a lot of emotional abuse or verbal abuse."
Kisha Wilkinson is a domestic abuse survivor and said what she saw growing up made her think it was okay, but she wanted it to stop and hopes this will light the way for more. Wilkinson said, "it empowers one to say 'I can do that too she was a single mom she went through that and she made it through' because of the support that's out there."
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To honor survivors and those in need of help, DVCC is now calling on businesses and community members to stand together by putting purple ribbons on their windows throughout the month. DVCC will provide supplies for anyone who needs them... just give them a call and they'll come to you.
On Friday, the Capitol Building and Leon County Courthouse will light up purple for the first week of October for domestic violence awareness.
If you or anyone you know is the victim of domestic violence, please call the hotline number 1-(800) 799-SAFE(7233).